Aquaponic Gardening

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I have read most of the posts in this group and want to sort of pull all the information together. I have 8 virgin IBC's sitting on my lawn. As soon as the weather clears, I plan to cut, support and plumb them into 16 growbeds.

1. First of all is what tool have you found to be the easiest and most economical to cut the plastic with the best results? I am a big fan of Harbor Freight as I am a DIY user and do not need a tool to make my living and last forever..

2. Support of the bottom half is a no-brainer. It already has a pallet that will simply need to be elevated to proper height for drainage and to be able to work underneath.

The top half though does not have it's own support so I figure to use 4X4's in the front and back and 2X4 supports  the other direction. my question is how many 2X4's are needed for the long term. I've seen aquariums placed on stands that held the weight at first only to warp and shift over time. i know plastic is alot more forgiving than glass but I still want to build this to last.

3. I read the discussion on how different people cut the cage with either the tubes sticking up and then filed or cut off. I'd already thought of using at least a few of those as trellis supports but also to use them as a support for a cold frame...

By simply taking a 1/2 inch piece of pvc and sticking it over one of the pieces and then arching it over the bed to the other side, you have a support to either put shade cloth during the summer or plastic for a cold frame during the winter..The cold frame idea makes an automatic water heater.

I live in north Louisiana and while it does not get nearly as cold as alot of you experience, my beds are going to be on my patio deck and totally exposed.

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I am also new to AP and would love to hear peoples suggestions on these IBC questions.

If you have an air compressor you could try one of those pnuematic sheet metal shears for the plastic. I never used that particular type of shear, but its principal is the same as the sonic crafter shears. I like the no burr approach as opposed to deburring after the cutting is done.

Wondered myself if a pipe cutter would work for the steel cage? Might not if the tubing has a seem, because it may crush the it, plus its more labor intensive.

As for 2x4s. as long as it doesnt get wet, they should last a fairly long time. I stay away from presure treated if its going to be above the fish tank so it won't leach any chemicals into it.

 Watch out for humidity problems if you go with the cold frame idea, and insulate the FT.

I used an angle grinder, aka side grinder or disc grinder, to cut my tanks initially.  It worked well and was easy to control, and handled both the plastic and the metal easily.  The only problem were the burrs on the metal and the plastic would get gummed up and a lot of clean up was necessary.  The second time I went to cutting on some IBCs I used a sawsall, or reciprocating saw.  it seemed to be a better tool for the job.  a much cleaner cut, although it needed a little cleanup still.  The only issue is, a sawsall requires an amount of finesse to cut straight and it cuts plastic very quickly, so mistakes can get outta control fast.  I would recommend a variable speed sawsall and make a couple of practice cuts before you attack a tote.

As for bottom support I have had good luck using extra pallets.  They are cheap and readily available and they are easily modified to allow for drainage.

Angle grinder with a 1mm cutting disk for the metal, and a jig saw for the plastic, is what I used. I first tried the angle grinder on the plastic too, but was put off in about 2 seconds flat by the gummy, stringy, melted plastic that spewed forth in Spiderman 3D fashion...hence the jigsaw... Do your self a favor and use a metal file after you make your cuts (on both the metal and the plastic).

I've been cutting the cages on the totes today. Looking at the metal and 'feeling" it, I expected it to be like galvanized conduit, basically medium grade steel. Instead, I wore out a cutting disc on the first cage and broke 3 jigsaw blades.. It is a higher grade steel...What I thought would be a few hour process is going to turn into a 2 day job.

What the heck are you using for jigsaw blades?!? Not sure what to say there?...How/when are they breaking?

I don't know if they have them in your area, but I've found "Kronoflex" Inox cutting disks pretty hardcore...

I went back to cutting disks. They lasted longer. The jigsaws were some very fine tooth that I got to cut the plastic but after I burned up the cutting disks, figured I would try them.

I found a cutting disk to use on my angle grinder so I will try that out tomorrow.

I use a skill saw for the plastic, you get straight clean lines fast.  As for the cage it's the sawsall all the way. 

Helpful tip is to use quality blades.  I now use lennox, which last for many systems before kicking the bucket.  Never use master mechanic.  I went through 3 blades on one system.

Christ...Now I get it. I thought you were using the jig-saw on only the plastic...and the cutting disks on the metal...No wonder they were breaking...

Pat James said:

I went back to cutting disks. They lasted longer. The jigsaws were some very fine tooth that I got to cut the plastic but after I burned up the cutting disks, figured I would try them.

I found a cutting disk to use on my angle grinder so I will try that out tomorrow.

Spent a good part (well the warm part) of the day today working on the IBC's. I cut all 7 of the cages in half and ground the sharp edges off 5 1/2. Tommorow I will finish the grinding and start cutting the tanks themselves.

My stepson is supposed to come over and help me pickup and transport the cinder blocks and landscape timbers I intend to use for supports.

Has anybody had a problem using landscape timbers? I would like to minimize the number of cinder blocks but I'm thinking, I ought to err on the side of too many.

Hey Pat, If you promise not to go giving it out (as it is far from complete) I will email the first 50+ pages in pdf of my instructions on how I have done mine with LOTS of pics. Having it all in one booklet is far easier than bits and pieces spread all over 3 forums if you know what I mean. I find the details are hard to come by and find organized in one place like your opening description states.

The one place I am weak on in the pdf is the actual cutting as I had NO patience with picking up the camera during that process but the next 5 GBs I will have someone on the camera.

Sorry but I only just discovered this thread while I was poking around. Not sure why I was not notified. Not the first time.

Let me know.

I will point out that if you want your grow beds to line up nicely get rid of the pallets they come on and use supports covered by decking (Cheap at Lowes {grade 2}). Here is a pic of half finished 5 GB row #1:

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